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Humanity and Global Changes

by T. Peterson, Ph.D.
(the following text excerpts are taken from:
The Creator's Window -Viewing Global Change,
Universal timelines, & The Promise, © 2000)

• Human Health

How is humanity’s health? The answer initially appears in the form of a few more numbers. Twenty percent of humanity, one in five, goes hungry. The seriously malnourished—500 million—receive less than 80% of the recommended daily intake of food energy. Globally, 27% lack basic health care. Over 1.5 billion lack safe drinking water and over 2 billion lack safe sanitation. There are many more numbers like these, but for now this is enough to demonstrate current conditions.

Access to health care differs based on personal or regional wealth. Richer nations develop and maintain modern facilities offering costly but highly effective specialized care. Elsewhere, a line is often drawn between the affluent and poor, as well as between the insured and uninsured.

Foreign aid supporting health services in the South is typically limited to optimize the greatest number of benefits per cost. Thus funds are concentrated on the children—for low cost inoculations, screening for early detection of treatable disease, and malnutrition therapies. What follows this form of health care is a cascade of consequences. First, the young receive aid, infant survival increases, more individuals live to older ages, which in turn results in an increasing older population that experiences complex diseases associated with aging. Any attempt to service a larger elderly population then burdens limited funds, especially in less developed regions. The world experiences secondary changes when the population retains the elderly long enough to significantly raise the rate of costly diseases. Expenditures for their care drain previously secure funds representing personal savings, retirement funds, and other public monies. Aid is never enough and hard choices often come to: who do we treat, who will survive?

Many developed nations spend astronomical sums to save a life and this illustrates how one life saved in the North represents funding sufficient to operate a major health program in a poor nation. In the South, medical professionals decide the survival of a life based only on a few dollars, or less. No price seems too extreme in the North, and I fear that equity is "thrown out with the bath water" in the South. Overall, the right to live a healthy life emerges as a fundamental issue woven into life styles in the North. Affluence and the availability of medical technology feeds an assumption that is generally unobtainable in the South. Here again, between the North and South, one finds a deepening abyss.

Mayan image

• Cultural Diversity

Diversity is the wellspring of life on planet Earth. The media emphasize biological diversity, but they rarely focus on the attributes, talents, and gifts of bio-cultural diversity which interlinks the human community with the global environment. Dr. Ariz tells us that culture is 'the way people think’ about reality. Color, ritual, cuisine, architecture, myth, language, religion, herbal medicine, and more are the expressions of cultural diversity.

Tribes, races, clans, and ethnic cultures are often stereotyped by differences between primitive and advanced life styles. This is a subjective comparison because, among other examples, native lore and wisdom are the root of modern medicine and provide insight for modern social behaviors. Humans have the option to preserve all species including every member of Homo sapiens. However, bias, greed, ignorance, neglect, and discrimination between social groups heightens artificial barriers. This furthers the poverty that drives resource depletion and other global changes. Among all resources, indigenous human populations hold knowledge and traditions that preserve the local environment and the culture immediately dependent upon it. In a time when environmentalists call on everyone to think globally by acting locally, a dominant global population moves into and takes over localized sociocultural resources previously cherished and preserved by more remote, specialized, indigenous peoples.

Dr. Jeffrey Neely looks at problems associated with preserving both natural and cultural resources. He observes that indigenous peoples represent small segments of the overall population occupying special, often small, communities on islands, deep in jungles, or other essentially undisturbed region.

Examples of ecologically and culturally sensible interactions between people and their environment can be found in all parts of the world. Such traditional communities often have profound and detailed knowledge of the ecosystems and species with which they are in contact and effective ways of ensuring they are used in a sustainable manner. Cultural diversity, which is provided above all by the great variety of indigenous cultures in all parts of the world, provides the human intellectual 'gene pool,' the basic raw material for adapting to the local environment.'

Now global change has upset long-established patterns:

...the natural world at the dawn of the industrial age was characterized by highly diverse ecosystems and human cultures. A fundamental ecological shift has occurred, however, during the past few generations or so. The world's array of highly diverse adaptations to local environmental conditions is being replaced by a world culture increasingly characterized by very high levels of material consumption, at least for a privileged minority.'

Disruption of social patterns and native settlements blurs identities and compromises unrecognized cultural contributions which humanity may yet employ in achieving a sustainable planet. Humans are a most curious species. Only the ability to think, analyze, and willfully control the environment sets them apart from other life forms. Within each culture lurks an awareness that man’s position among all species is uniquely responsible for the Earth’s general welfare.

This is the real tragedy of the commons: traditional management systems that were effective for thousands of years become obsolete in a few decades, replaced by systems of exploitation that bring short-term profits for a few and long-term costs for many. This leads to the loss of both biological and cultural diversity. As one indication, over half of the world's 6,000 languages are now moribund, spoken only by people who are middle-aged or older.'

Here, I see at least two consequences. First, cultural diversity is lost as indigenous peoples lose their identity and their native language. The world coalesces groups of people through a reduction of language diversity. Second, the old form of communication is often synonymous with local knowledge. As the language fades so goes the native knowledge of local species and natural resources.

The extinction of cultures, or of traditional knowledge within cultures undergoing rapid change, is a problem at least as serious for humanity as the extinction of species. All who follow will share the loss of knowledge about the local environment. Cultural information about how it might be used to provide sustainable benefits may be lost forever, along with the species that have supported hunters for thousands of years.'

I am left with questions concerning the potential unity of peoples. Obviously, to solve global problems requires overcoming all forms of exploitation and conflict. In fact, famine is usually the result of conflict—civil war and power struggles—not inadequate food supply. We have yet to see movements effective enough to build permanent food distribution systems and eliminate weapons, hostility, and terrorism.

Again, look at the news. Maintaining human diversity is not everyone’s priority. Ethnic conflicts testify otherwise. Cultural cleansing, which encourages annihilation, assassination, or separation of peoples, occurred in Germany, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere during the 90s. Will we see another holocaust?

For reasons given in Part Four, you may soon see a global government that oversteps and threatens cultural diversity by demanding monetary and social unification of all peoples. If humanity is to survive through time, is it not fair to assume human diversity represents a trait for success? What options remain for survival in a world that reduces diversity?

This is just one of many panes in the WindowView. This is a fraction of the process identified earlier within the section entitled 'Convergence.' Keep exploring the view, visit our page titled 'Experience WindowView' to see how global changes are part of a larger holistic paradigm which is the reason behind assembling this cyber-place. Putting the picture together helps to envision humanity's direction along the dimension of time.

A copy of this text with footnotes and a complete listing of references used in writing this text can be obtained by downloading the chapters and reference list for the Creator's Window. References that appear as ''(SXi #)'' signify the page number from Sigma Xi's publication related to a 1991 forum on global change (see reference list for the Creator's Window for a complete citation of this work).

The importance to global change is in looking at how social, biological, and physical sciences all reveal data and signs for more ominous changes in the near future. This is change in every aspect of human and earthly affairs ... globally. The Window looks further to see change as a backdrop to a biblical timeline. Driving forces for change force us to ask the most important questions about our true origin, who we are, why we are here, and what the Scriptures tell us about the future. Change forces us to look deeper to face choice or crisis. Life is an opportunity to look for the answers.

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